Sentencing Guidelines under New Jersey Law
Paramus Criminal Defense Attorneys
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Sentencing in New Jersey Criminal Cases: Mitigating Factors
In accordance with N.J.S.A. 2C:44-1, at sentencing a New Jersey Superior Court judge will consider the following mitigating factors:
- The defendant’s conduct neither caused nor threatened serious harm;
- The defendant did not contemplate that his conduct would cause or threaten serious harm;
- The defendant acted under a strong provocation;
- There were substantial grounds that would help to excuse or justify the defendant’s conduct, though failing to establish a defense;
- The victim of the defendant’s conduct induced or facilitated its commission;
- The defendant has compensated or will compensate the victim of his conduct for the damage or injury that he sustained, or will participate in a program of community service;
- The defendant has no history of prior delinquency or criminal activity or has led a law-abiding life for a substantial period of time before the commission of the present offense;
- The defendant’s conduct was the result of circumstances unlikely to recur;
- The character and attitude of the defendant indicate that he is unlikely to commit another offense;
- The defendant is particularly likely to positively respond to probationary treatment;
- The imprisonment of the defendant would cause serious hardship to himself or his dependants;
- The willingness of the defendant to cooperate with law enforcement authorities;
- The conduct of a youthful defendant was substantially influenced by another person more mature than the defendant.
Sentencing Factors in New Jersey Criminal Cases: Aggravating Factors
In accordance with N.J.S.A. 2C:44-1, at sentencing a New Jersey Superior Court judge will consider the following aggravating factors:
- The nature and circumstances of the offense, and the role of the actor, including whether or not it was committed in an especially, heinous, cruel, or depraved manner;
- The gravity and seriousness of the harm inflicted on the victim, including whether or not he defendant knew or reasonably should have known that the victim of the offense was vulnerable or incapable of resistance due to advanced age, ill-health, or extreme youth, or for any other reason was substantially incapable of exercising normal physical or mental power of resistance;
- The risk that the defendant will commit another offense;
- A lesser offense will depreciate the seriousness of the defendant’s offense because it involved a breach of the public trust under chapters 27 and 30, or the defendant took advantage of a position of trust or confidence to commit the offense;
- There is a substantial likelihood that the defendant is involved in organized criminal activity;
- The extent of the defendant’s prior criminal record and the seriousness of the offenses of which he has been convicted;
- The defendant committed the offense under an agreement to either pay or be paid for the commission of the offense and the primary motivation was for financial benefit.
- The defendant committed the offense against a police or other law enforcement officer, correctional employee or fireman, acting in the performance of his duties while in uniform or exhibiting evidence of his authority; the defendant committed the offense against a sports official, athletic coach or manager, acting in or immediately following the performance of his duties or because of the person’s status as a sports official, coach or manager
- The need for deterring the defendant and others from violating the law;
- The offense involved fraudulent or deceptive practices committed against any department or division of the State government;
- In imposing only a fine, penalty or order of restitution without also imposing a term of imprisonment would be perceived by the defendant or other as merely the cost of doing business, or as an acceptable contingent business or operating expense associated with the initial decision to commit unlawful practices;
- The defendant committed the offense against a person who he knew or should have known was 60 years of age or older, or disabled; and
- The defendant, while in the course of committing or attempting to commit the crime, including the immediate flight from where the offense occurred, used or was in possession of a stolen motor vehicle.
Weighing the Aggravating and Mitigating Factors at Sentencing
When imposing a sentence on a defendant, a Superior Court judge will attempt to balance the above aggravating and mitigating factors. First, the defendant will be interviewed by probation for a “pre-sentence report,” which will combine information on the defendant’s background, criminal history, education history, work history, and the details of the underlying offense so that the judge will be fully informed of all circumstances surrounding the defendant and the offense when the sentence is imposed. At sentencing, the State will argue for certain aggravating factors, while defense counsel will argue for certain mitigating factors. The Superior Court judge will balance these factors and use the information in the pre-sentence report to impose what he or she believes is an appropriate sentence. The defendant will have 45 days to appeal this sentence if they disagree with it for any reason.